Given that tweens have a well-established reputation for adopting new technology before the mainstream market does, it’s not surprising that a 24-hour channel devoted to the subject would be looking at widening its programming swath to include these viewers. Although he stresses that Tech TV isn’t specifically targeting kids, the channel’s VP of programming and productions Greg Drebin has acquired a couple of new shows that he expects will appeal to the 10 to 14 crowd as well as Tech’s core 30-something audience.
Techno Games, a hugely popular series from U.K.-based Robot Wars creator Mentorn International that is pulling in a 16% share and 3.3 million viewers in its third season on BBC2, joined the channel last month. Riding the fault line between technology and entertainment, the 26 x half-hour show pits homemade machines and robots against each other in sporting events like Assault Course, Sprint and Tug of War.
After taking care of the ‘Olympics for mechanics’ niche, Drebin turned his attention to hunting for a futuristic series with wide demographic appeal. Gerry Anderson’s U.K. cult phenomenon Thunderbirds fit the bill perfectly and will debut on July 1. The super-marionation series is set in the year 2065, when over-population has forced architects to look at more economic uses of land for housing. Drebin plans to support the show with channel extras linking back to the www.techtv.com website, including trivia blasts, a making-of special and live chats during the screening party with comments scrolling at the bottom of the screen from fans and NASA sources.
A programming nugget that’s already drawing in younger viewers with its focus on toons is Eye Drops, a weekly half-hour showcase for amateur animation shorts. Drebin plans for this show to eventually develop into a breeding ground for animated series development–along the lines of Nick’s Oh Yeah! Cartoons.
Tech TV’s split between in-house productions and acquisitions/commissions is roughly 80%/20%, but Drebin says he is always looking for more of the latter. Ideally, he’d like long-running half-hour formats for stripping, but will consider 13-ep runs or even one-off specials. Depending on how Techno Games and Thunderbirds fare at attracting a younger audience, Drebin may look at setting up a special kids block in the future.
The channel shot into 10 million homes in the U.S. when it launched in 1999, but that reach has since grown to 33 million homes in the U.S. and 70 million abroad on cable and satellite. A 24-hour format of Tech TV runs in Canada and the Middle East (as part of Star TV’s Select, Gold, Kids and Knowledge satellite packages), while broadcasters like TV Tokyo opt to air individual Tech TV news pieces on their own.